As some of you may know, Evelina Children’s Hospital in London, part of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust, launched the Rainbow Badges project in February this year.
These badges, backed by the health secretary, were designed to promote inclusivity and support to all members of the LGBT population in response to a Stonewall Survey conducted in 2018 based on health. I’m proud to say that, as a LGBT ally, I wear one every time I am in placement and I will continue to do so when I start working full-time in September.
The Stonewall Survey found, among other important findings, that despite clear improvements in reaching LGBT equality over recent years, many LGBT people still face discrimination and hostility in health services today.
It is important to stress that healthcare services have a legal obligation according to the Equality Act (2010) to treat LGBT people fairly and without discrimination. Despite this, the experience LGBT people have faced or the expectation of discrimination from healthcare services was found in the Stonewall Survey to deter some LGBT people from accessing the help they need.
Even more starkly, the report found that one in seven LGBT people have avoided medical treatment for fear of prejudice – including more than a third of trans people. Almost one in four of LGBT people have witnessed discriminatory remarks against LGBT people by healthcare staff.
With regards to mental health, the Stonewall Survey further found that half of the LGBT population has experienced depression and 3 in 5 suffered from anxiety in the last year alone – well above the estimates for the general population.
More specifically, those in the LGBT population who are young, disabled, black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) or from a poor socioeconomic background, had higher incidences of poor mental health.
”It is idealistic to think that we have a healthcare system that serves the population without any form of discrimination”
So what does this all mean? As health professionals, it serves as a stark reminder about the forgotten plight of the LGBT population that often goes unnoticed and unrecognised. Of course we recognise that in recent years, social attitudes here in the UK have improved and become increasingly positive towards the LGBT population, but it is idealistic to think that we have a healthcare system that serves the population without any form of discrimination.
Even as someone who is aware of at least some of the struggles the LGBT population can face in a healthcare setting, the statistics are startling and unsettling to me. They simply show more needs to be done to ensure we are providing optimal care to these individuals and creating an environment where they can feel safe and comfortable in being who they are.
By wearing these badges, we are both promoting inclusivity and diversity and signalling to those in the LGBT population that they can talk to us about any issues they may be having – whether it be issues of sexuality, gender identity or simply issues regarding their physical or mental health.
The nature of healthcare is that we have a very mixed array of people coming into our GP surgeries, our wards and our emergency departments. It is our responsibility as nurses to advocate and support every single person that comes in regardless of their sexuality, race or ethnicity, gender, religion, socio-economic status or disability.
These badges are a symbol of solidarity with the LGBT population. I always endeavour to come across as someone a person could confide in no matter where they come from or who they are, but I hope that by wearing one of the Rainbow Badges, someone would feel more confident or comfortable approaching me.
For more information or help and advice, Stonewall, Mind LGBTQ and the LGBT Foundation are useful resources available online for anyone who needs support. There are also helplines which are free and available 24/7 if you ever need anyone to talk to, such as the Switchboard LGBT helpline, the Terrence Higgins Trust and The Mix.